It shouldn’t cost so much for inmates to call home

From: New Orleans Times-Picayune
Nov. 2nd, 2012
By James Gill

Prison telephones are such a scam that operators can afford to kick back at least $15 million to the state over the next five years — and that’s just at Angola and 10 other state penitentiaries. Altogether, Louisiana, which leads in the world in locking up its citizens, has 40,000 inmates in 170 jails and prisons. They are worth a fortune.

Inmates are not so much allowed as encouraged to make collect calls because the monopolies that provide the phones get to charge such obscene rates. This is the inevitable result of awarding contracts to the companies that agree to pay the state the biggest share of the loot. Sheriffs have been known to get in on the racket by setting up phone companies on the side.

Louisiana is not the only state to see misery as a profit center, but the families of our inmates have for decades been rooked to a spectacular degree. They pay 15 times more for their calls than the rest of us. Occasional attempts to stop the profiteering have been made in the Legislature, but a sense of shame is hard to discover in that quarter.

Now, the voice of decency has been raised, however. The Public Service Commission sets telephone rates, and its chairman, Foster Campbell, is proposing a 25 percent reduction and the elimination of various arbitrary surcharges. He says two of the other four commissioners, Jimmy Field and Lambert Boissiere, are on his side, so it seems he will prevail.

A call from a Louisiana jailbird will still not be all that cheap. It will cost about 23 cents a minute, whereas on the outside we pay 2 cents. Taking a call from the hoosegow in New York works out to just under a nickel a minute. Still, Campbell offers inmates’ families some relief, and they need it desperately.

Read the rest here: http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2012/11/it_shouldnt_cost_so_much_for_i.html

Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow (FIT) comes to the Meeting of FFIP in Las Vegas

We received the following email from our colleagues at Family and Friends of Incarcerated Persons. We think this should be a good opportunity to learn a lot about possibilities when your family-member or loved one leaves prison. So please come over and ask questions and learn!
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If you or a family member or a person reentering from prison/jail need a job or a career change please join us at this meeting.
Friday April 27th – 7pm, 2000 South Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas
This will be valuable information !
You don’t want to miss this meeting!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  
“I’m really looking forward to sharing the information about our program.”
Jennifer Casey, LSW
Resource Manager, Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow (FIT)
(702) 367-4348 ext. 236  (702) 362-8513 FAX
JenniferC @ lasvegasfit.org
  
Please R.S.V.P.
F.F.I.P.
www.ffipnv.org
PO Box 27708
Las Vegas, NV 89126
702-870-5577

Solidarity Rally and March: Protest Ohio’s Prison Industrial Complex – April 7th in Columbus, Ohio

Saturday, April 7th – 1pm – 3pm
Gather at Broad & High (Statehouse sidewalk)

Several organizations and activist groups are uniting for a rally and march to call for an end to the injustices in Ohio’s prison industrial complex. Bob Fitrakis, journalist, author, and professor of political science at Columbus State Community College will speak at the rally.

The rally will be followed by a march west on Broad Street to the Ohio Dept of Rehabilitation and Correction at 770 West Broad Street. We are demanding:

           – End the death penalty
           – Release the framed Lucasville Five
           – Parole for old law prisoners – presumption for parole when eligible
           – Right to a life for released prisoners – remove the barriers to employment and housing

Death Penalty. Execution is a cruel and brutal practice. Further, the arbitrariness in the application of the death penalty violates the principles of fundamental justice. Execution – whether done by a mob or a government – is murder.

Lucasville Five. Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Namir Abdul Mateen, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, Bomani Shakur, all on death row. Within a few hours after the uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility began,
these five men took leadership, seeking to minimize violence. They did save the lives of several men, prisoner and guard alike. But the State of Ohio deliberately framed these five innocent men for murder, on the basis of testimony by prisoners who, in exchange for their testimony, received benefits such as early parole. (See “Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising” by Staughton Lynd at http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1772_reg.html.)

Old Law Prisoners. Old law prisoners are those sentenced before 1996 when Ohio passed a truth-in-sentencing law. There are 3,200 of these old-law prisoners who are eligible for parole. All have been
incarcerated for at least 16 years and some for many more – even decades. At the time these prisoners were sentenced, the judges’ expectation and the Parole Board practice was to grant parole upon eligibility or two or three years later, but over time the Parole Board changed its practice, becoming progressively harsher, and now repeatedly denies parole. Sixteen years is too long – it is time to release these men. (See “Truth in Sentencing: 3200 prisoners stuck in Ohio Prisons”  at http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/18/2012/4537.)

Right to Rebuild a Life Upon Release. It is close to impossible in the year 2012 for a released Ohio prisoner to rebuild a life – because of the multiple barriers to employment and housing. Ohio now has over 800 laws that restrict former prisoners’ access to employment, housing, and education – civil collateral consequences of imprisonment – huge barriers to return to society. With no money, no job, no place to
live, a return to crime becomes more likely. The greatest cost is destruction of lives, but in addition increased recidivism has large financial cost for the State of Ohio.
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Sponsor: Central Ohio Prisoner Advocates:
centralohio.prisoneradvocates@gmail.com
http://centralohioprisoneradvocates.wordpress.com/

Prisons ‘about to blow’?

Violence data part of argument for Senate bill

Wednesday, February 16, 2011  02:55 AM

The Columbus Dispatch

Violent or destructive incidents involving six or more inmates in Ohio prisons have almost quadrupled in just three years.

Such confrontations occurred an average of once every 28 days in 2007, but by last year they were breaking out once every 7.6 days.

That’s keeping Gary C. Mohr, the new director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, up at night.

“Seven days a week, I’m watching these things show up on my Blackberry,” said Mohr, a longtime veteran of Ohio prisons picked by Gov. John Kasich to return to the department. “This is not the same system I left eight years ago.”
State Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, also is concerned. “We are sitting on a tinderbox, and it’s about to blow.”

Seitz and Mohr cited the statistics yesterday in testifying in support of Senate Bill 10, a major overhaul of Ohio sentencing, parole and probation law. Backers say the legislation would save the state $78 million over three years, reduce the prison population to 2007 levels and avoid the need to spend $500 million building prisons.

State prisons now house nearly 51,000 offenders, 33 percent more than they were designed to hold.

At the same time, budget cuts in recent years have forced staff reductions, including removing some corrections officers from cellblocks and dormitories, Mohr said.

Incidents of violence or property destruction, or both, went up correspondingly, he said.

Seitz said he visited a prison recently where he saw two officers, one on each of two floors, in charge of a prison dormitory housing nearly 250 offenders.
The legislation is a combination of reform proposals Seitz tried unsuccessfully to get passed in the last session of the General Assembly, plus a new “Justice Reinvestment” proposal developed by the Council of State Governments. The measure has bipartisan support from officials in all three branches of state government.

Among its many elements, the proposal would provide inmates with the possibility of receiving an “earned credit” reduction of up to 8 percent of their sentence by successfully completing drug-treatment, job-training and education programs. It also would increase the threshold for felony theft charges to $1,000 from $500, provide nonprison sentencing options for nonviolent offenders and revamp the probation system statewide.

The legislation has critics, including county prosecutors who say it violates the principles of the state’s 1996 “truth-in-sentencing” law. State Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, chairman of the Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee that is hearing the bill, also has a lot of questions.

Yesterday, the Chesterland Republican challenged the idea of diverting low-level felony offenders from prison, or reducing the sentences of those incarcerated.

“Today’s low-level offender is tomorrow’s violent offender,” he said.
The committee also heard testimony from the sponsor of Senate Bill 17, which would allow those with concealed-carry gun permits to bring their weapons into restaurants and bars – as long as they aren’t drinking.

Read the rest here.

Vote for Susan Burton on CNN: A New Way of Life

Vote for Susan Burton to make her CNN nr 1 Hero of 2010.
Vote today! Susan Burton.

Susan Burton has helped more than 400 female ex-convicts get back on their feet.

A new door is what Burton’s program — A New Way of Life Reentry Project — gives to just-released female offenders. By providing a sober place to live and other support services, she’s helped more than 400 women get back on their feet.

She meets new arrivals at bus stations or prison gates, saying “welcome home.”

Please visit the website of Susan’s project A New Way of Life.